This past weekend I put a years worth of training to the test, and competed in my second USA Powerlifting meet. A grueling seven hour day that, once again, taught me an incredible amount about myself as a lifter.
But, before I go into any of that, I’ll put the videos front and center. First, the abridged video of just my three best successful lifts of the day, followed by the video containing all of my attempts throughout the day.
I managed to challenge my-2013-self, and come out ahead. Setting a new competition best in the squat of 405 pounds (30 pound increase!), and an all-time best deadlift of 510 pounds (10 pound increase!). Rounded out with a lagging bench of 215 pounds (10 pound decrease), I managed an 1130 pound total (30 pound increase!) in the 275 pound weight class, landing me in 4th place.
What I Did Right
Considering I was able to make considerable gains on the squat and deadlift, even after throwing my life into chaos by moving to NYC, I think there was a lot that went really well with my training. The biggest contributor to my success was definitely trying out the Smolov squat program, even if it was the abridged version.
The other key factor was letting myself gain weight. A prospect that, after losing over 90 pounds and getting into shape, was incredibly difficult to let happen. It was a necessary evil, as it allowed me to recover easier, while pushing myself to my limits.
Being my second meet, I had a much better idea of what to expect, and what to prepare for. The actual day of the event is incredibly hectic and stressful, even if you don’t count the impact of performing the actual lifts. The last thing you need to worry about as a competitor is keeping track of when your next attempt is. This crucial information is what dictates your decisions on timing your warm ups, as well as making sure you don’t…you know… miss an attempt entirely. This is why having an experienced handler to rely on is critically important. This year I asked my good friend Mike to help me out, since he helped me last year, and he did an excellent job. Both of us being familiar with the flow, made the whole day much less mentally exhausting, and made me much less hesitant to compete more often.
What I Did Wrong
The biggest – miscalculation – I made goes back to that whole “allowing myself to gain weight” thing. When I competed last year, I was in the 242 pound weight class, and my goal was to be in that weight class again this year.
That was a nice idea.
Unfortunately, it didn’t end up happening. This was entirely a result of a lack of planning on my part. When I finished my Smolov cycle, my squat was far stronger, but I had ballooned up from 240 pounds to 265 with only a couple of months until the competition. Not wanting to lose a significant portion of my hard won strength gains, I attempted to slowly cut weight so I could compete in the 242 pound weight class.
Suddenly I was three weeks away from competing, and still 18 pounds too heavy. Trying to cut that much weight, in such a short amount of time, proved to be too much. Resulting with getting bumped up into the 275 pound weight class, weighing a measly 247 pounds.
Needing to cut so much weight, in such a short amount of time, certainly gave me the most insight this time around. Now I have a much firmer grasp of my limitations with cutting weight, which will serve me well. Not only as I approach the next competition, but as I train. From now on, I will be much more careful when I gain weight during particularly difficult training cycles, limiting myself to a 10 pound deviation from the weight I want to compete at.
Something I may not have learned this time, but a lesson that was certainly reinforced, involved my poor showing with bench press. It has always been my weakest lift, so I never prioritized it while planning out my training, as it is frustratingly un-fun to struggle with progression. This time I not only did not progress in a lift, I seem to have lost progress in it, a real wakeup call.
With another meet under my belt, it’s already time to start planning for the next one.
Working toward my third meet, I want to start to be more competitive against the others in my weight class, as opposed to only competing against myself. As much as that is about how much weight you can move, it is also about being smart about what weight class you are best suited for. To that end, I think my days in the 242 weight class are over. The goal is to now diet down to under 230, and train hard to be competitive in the 220 weight class.
What that training will consist of is still currently in flux, and will be highly dependent on how dieting down to the lower weight class will go. Bench press being a priority, the current plan is to try Smolov Jr, as many lifters have had a lot of success with it significantly boosting their bench numbers. In parallel with the bench work, I am also going to run a more intense (thirteen week instead of seven) version of Smolov for squats. Combining the two routines will likely be brutal, but I am fairly confident it will go a long way towards making me an overall better lifter.